Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Q&A: Why did the Writers Union motion come forward now?

Q.  Don Meredith, who follows Access Copyright matters for the Outdoor Writers of Canada, and blogs here, reports a problem with our comments function, so we are posting what would have been his comment:
I am a bit puzzled by the timing of this TWUC motion. Although I agree with much of what it says (to a point), I find it difficult to muster much energy to pursue the matter when on the horizon the federal government is about to reintroduce its amendments to the Copyright Act. If those amendments include placing educational copying under 'fair use' then that bill could render the TWUC motion moot. Educational copying provides the bulk of revenue to AC. Without it, an argument over how revenue is distributed will be quite different, especially considering how AC's clout on the legal front will be diminished. Perhaps we writers should be more careful in picking our battles and when to fight them.
A. I can't speak for all the members of the Writers' Union (or of the League of Canadian Poets) who voted for this measure. Questions like yours were raised and discussed.  But the motion was supported by writers who have been among the leading voices and most prominent creators in the legislative fight to defend copyright and collectives, last year and for many years.

There is no slackening in the Union's commitment to strong and effective copyright legislation or in its opposition to wholesale exemptions for schools, universities, and other institutions whose work depends on our copyrights.  The Union works closely with Access Copyright on copyright legislation matters and will surely do so as long as Access Copyright holds the franchise for our copyright and collective licensing interests.

Last year's battles in Ottawa confirmed just how central creators are to the defence of copyright and of collective licensing.  Creators were front and centre throughout the debate, and Access Copyright depended heavily on creators to make the case for its survival.

I think it is fair to say that many writers found themselves asking why it is that Access Copyright depends so much on creators to provide its legitimacy -- and yet leaves so many creators deeply dissatisfied with the way it represents our interests.  For many of us, I think, the fight for effective copyright legislation and the fight for effective collective licensing processes go hand in hand.  It is because we are serious about the one that we are serious about the other.  This is the right time to do both.  If we withheld action awaiting the end of copyright debates, we would surely wait forever.

In any case, the Ottawa officialdom has long said that once the "first" stage of copyright legislation is done, one of the next things it plans is a review of how collectives fulfill the mandate they have been given.  If we are not prepped for that, we risk being ignored in that process again.

Just my opinion, Don, but it reflects what I have heard.

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